BBC again inaccurate on Libyan Jewish history

Previously we documented inaccurate presentations of the history of Libyan Jews in four versions of an August 28th BBC News website report about protests in Libya over a meeting between that country’s foreign minister and her Israeli counterpart:


The same day’s edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘OS’ included an item on the same topic (from 08:33 here) which was described as follows in its synopsis:

“The Libyan prime minister is reported to have sacked his foreign minister following criticism of a meeting with her Israeli counterpart. Our Middle East regional editor explains.”

Presenter Lukwesa Burak introduced her colleague Mike Thomson, describing him as “our world affairs correspondent” who “has been following this story for us” and listeners worldwide then heard the following: [emphasis in italics in the original]

Thomson: “Well it’s been a big issue there of great sort of burning intensity for many Libyans because there’s such support for the Palestinian cause and for a long time, particularly under former Colonel Gaddafi – the dictator who was ousted in 2011 – ehm…at that point he got rid of around about forty thousand…he managed to expel around forty thousand…ehm…Jewish people. There had been a rich Jewish heritage in the country but going back as far as 1970, there’d been efforts to…eh…push them out of the country, along with any remaining Italians. So it’s a really sort of burning issue and people see of course what’s been happening lately on the West Bank with increased settlements and clashes between settlers and Palestinian villagers and many people killed by the Israeli army and of course gun attacks by Palestinians. So all around it’s such a hot topic, particularly at the moment, and this was the last straw for many people there.”

Contrary to Thomson’s claim, Gaddafi did not ‘get rid of’ forty thousand Libyan Jews. As noted here previously, when Gaddafi took power in September 1969, barely a hundred members of Libya’s two-and-a-half-thousand-year-old Jewish community, which had numbered over 30,000 people on the eve of World War Two, remained in the country.

Thomson’s claim that “efforts” to “push them [Jews] out of the country” dated back “as far as 1970” is also inaccurate: the Libyan Jewish population suffered persecution during World War Two and pogroms in 1945, 1948 and 1967.

“In November, 1945 there was a vicious, three-day pogrom against the Jews in Tripoli: 120 Jews were murdered, hundreds more were wounded, and at least five synagogues were completely destroyed. The rioters not only destroyed and looted the city’s synagogues, but they also ruined hundreds of homes and businesses as well.

Again in 1948, coinciding with the declaration of the State of Israel, anti-Semitism escalated and rioters killed 12 Jews and destroyed 280 homes. This time, though, the Jews fought back and prevented even more deaths and injury. As a result of the rampant anti-Semitism, 30,972 Jews immigrated to Israel.

A new law in 1961 required a special permit to prove Libyan citizenship. Virtually all Jews were denied this permit. By 1967 the Jewish population had decreased to 7,000. Following Israel’s Six Day War, antisemitic rioting began again. The King of Libya, as well as Jewish leaders, urged the remaining Libyan Jews to emigrate. An Italian airlift saved 6,000 Jews and relocated them to Rome, though they were forced to leave behind homes, businesses and possessions. In 1969, when Muammar al-Qaddafi came to power, there were only 100 Jews remaining in Libya. His government confiscated all Jewish property, cancelled Jewish debt [debt owed to Jews – Ed.] and made emigration for Jews legally prohibited. Some Jews still managed to get out. By 2004 there were no Jews left in Libya.”

One can only wonder as to the source of the inaccurate information concerning the history of Libyan Jews – including the repeated inaccurate claims about Gaddafi – which were promoted by Mike Thomson and at least two other BBC journalists.

Given the history of the persecution of Jews in Libya to extinction, Thomson’s efforts to tie the reaction on the Libyan street exclusively to contemporary events in Judea & Samaria ring extremely hollow.

In addition, while Thomson was far from the only BBC journalist to use the term “the Palestinian cause” while reporting this story, neither he nor any of the others bothered to clarify to BBC audiences exactly what that term is supposed to mean or that for some Palestinian factions, the “cause” (which is supported by others, including Libya’s grand mufti) is to eliminate Israel.

CAMERA UK has submitted another complaint on this issue.

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1 Comment

  1. says: Grimey

    No need for CAMERA to wonder about the source of inaccurate information on Libyan Jews supplied to all the BBC “journalists”. They simply select whichever facts or lies will best favour the Moslem cause and damage Judaism at the same time. Simples !

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